Post-Project Value Assessments
So, now that you have taken a value-based approach such as this, how do you assess your process and performance? This requires you to continue to assess value after the tasks and milestones are complete. This is when a project's promised benefits are finally realized. However, when asked about post-project evaluation, the answer most often heard is, "We don't do a very good job of that, but we should!" Why is this not happening? The primary momentum killer here is that organizations typically make post-project assessments way too complicated with detailed on-time and financial calculations that require pinpoint accuracy.
The truth is that post-project assessments do not have to be complicated or time consuming in order to provide reasonable direction. Two primary assessments will get the job done: a quality assessment for understanding project execution value, and a benefits assessment for understanding the realized value of the project.
A post-project quality assessment can occur within weeks of the validated completion of a project. The aim should be to gain an understanding of the quality of the execution of the project and its affect on the relationship with the recipient or sponsor of the project. A simple look at four criteria can be helpful: on-time; in-budget; performance satisfaction; and defects. Often these criteria are in competition with each other, e.g., on-time means more defects, a customer is happy because scope was expanded resulting in a poor budget performance.
In practice, trends often become apparent for certain project managers and teams. Some always deliver on-time, in-budget but the customer doesn't like working with them due to their relentless focus. Others are great at keeping the customer happy, but have trouble delivering budget, time or defect expectations.
These quality realizations can be helpful in positioning the right project managers and teams with the right customers based on the customer's perception of performance value. Comments and identifications of root causes for poor performance can help increase accuracy in forecasting budgets, end-dates and resource loads in the future. As with other areas of portfolio management, detailed analysis of time and budget data rarely provides enough marginal benefit over the simple assessment to make it worth the time and frustration.
Assessing the actual benefits of a project might take some time. However, this is truly the most important evaluation. The reason for selecting a project should be that the project would deliver some benefits to the organization, e.g. increased revenue; higher efficiencies; increased customer satisfaction; or some other value. The project execution team is rarely responsible for the delivery of these benefits and the realization of these benefits rarely relates to whether the project came in on-time and in-budget. Certainly, diligently gathering financial data over time and plugging this information into an NPV calculation will provide a good assessment of value.
However, there are simpler ways that require fewer rigors. To start, a simple successful or not successful indication along with some comments is better than nothing. Another simple technique is to use the same weighted scoring model used for project selection to produce a post-project score. This also provides the benefit of allowing the consideration of both quantitative and qualitative, and reward and risk value criteria. Armed with post-project benefits information, portfolio managers will be able to confidently communicate the value of the work being performed and truly migrate from project managers to become business leaders.